‘Big Short’ Author Michael Lewis on Wall Street, Robinhood, Elon Musk

  • “The Big Short” author Michael Lewis told DealBook that Wall Street culture is less colorful today.
  • Vanguard is more disruptive than Robinhood, and the trading app offers casino-like fun, Lewis said.
  • Lewis would love to write Elon Musk’s biography, but he doesn’t think the Tesla boss wants to.

Michael Lewis, the author of several books on Wall Street, explained how technology has changed trading rooms, called Vanguard more disruptive than Robinhood, and discussed the possibility of writing Elon Musk’s biography in a recent interview.

Lewis, whose books have inspired Oscar-nominated movies including ‘The Big Short’, told The New York Times’ DealBook that he doesn’t think today’s Wall Street figures are as colorful as those of the 1980s.

Here are 9 of Lewis’ best quotes from the interview, edited for length and clarity:

1. “Corporate culture was pretty much all it needed and it was fun, especially for someone writing about it. Now it’s all flattened out into this gray.” (He described how the culture of Wall Street had changed since the publication of his first book, “Liar’s Poker,” in 1989.)

2. “The sound, smell and kind of taste of the place seems to have changed. I walked into a large hedge fund trading room, and they’re completely silent. It’s just guys and women who stare at screens and do things with their computers.”

3. “They were willing to pay me probably millions of dollars, but certainly hundreds of thousands, for giving financial advice when I certainly didn’t know what you should do with your money.” (He was reflecting on his experience as a bond salesman at the now-defunct investment firm Salomon Brothers in the 1980s.)

4. “Look, if Elon Musk asked me to come up with him, of course I would. I just don’t think he would. I don’t think I’m the writer he’s in for.” head.” (Lewis was discussing whether he would write a biography of the Tesla boss. “Steve Jobs” author Walter Isaacson is working on a biography of Musk.)

5. “I can’t say I don’t like the people on Wall Street. I like some of them. But I think the system is perpetually screwed up, and I don’t quite understand why, except that people find themselves in positions of influence and they are able to make money with a screwed up system.”

6. “I feel like technology has made the characters a little less rich. It’s more like there’s a flatness that technology has encouraged.” (He was describing how the characters on Wall Street today are less colorful than some of those he wrote about.)

7. “I get it’s fun if you treat it like a casino. It’s not very healthy. I think Vanguard is more helpful, disruptive than Robinhood, teaching people not to do that.” (Lewis suggested that Robinhood encourages gambling and speculation, while Vanguard supports long-term investing).

8. “I should have expected a youngster to mostly profit from this, that’s how much fun Wall Street was.” (He was reflecting on how “Liar’s Poker” became a guide to how big financial institutions work.)

9. “No Wall Street boss made his employees read ‘Liar’s Poker’ in 1990. It was like, you’re not supposed to read that. Now it’s become some kind of weird textbook.”

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